Photos by Steve Kalinsky of shootstothrill.com
Jeff Lynne’s ELO final flight lands in Pittsburgh.
By Frank Harrington
Music fans learned to accept years ago that they would never have the opportunity to experience Electric Light Orchestra in concert. Since their disbanding, various members have set out with their version of the 1970’s powerhouse. But without Jeff Lynne’s participation, the ELO spin-off’s are just a rib-fest attraction. Lynne, after many years of being a successful record producer, got the bug to go out and fly the ELO flag one last time. The global orbit started in April 2016 and wrapped up at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paint Arena, perhaps giving Steel Town a footnote as Jeff Lynne’s final concert appearance.
The near capacity audience did not take for granted that seeing Jeff Lynne would be perhaps a once in a lifetime concert experience.
Decked out in a dark jacket and trademark beard and glasses, Lynne performed without leaving center stage and came across as being distant and uncomfortable as the front man for the band that gave the world legendary pop hooks and made rock orchestral sweeps in rock & roll hip.
After running through their opener “Standin’ in the Rain,” “Evil Woman” followed, which put the audience on their feet. A monster hit so early in the set was not a head-scratcher because when you have a catalog of classic rock masterpieces, choosing a set list order is challenging – so many ELO songs could be show closers.
The night was filled with note for note renditions of musical memories where every note is already embedded into our heads and going off script would come across as a mistake. The 21 song set lasted an hour and 45 minutes thus not leaving time for deep cuts.
Now don’t let the name Electric Light Orchestra fool you. I’m sure they paid their electric bill but the band played under mostly dim lighting with no front lighting or follow spots. This lack of lighting on the performers took energy out of the room but no problem. The band is based on their musicianship not showmanship. There was lighting but designed to go with the flow of the music as an overall landscape.
Lighting was synchronized with ELO’s music, making the stage at times seem like a space ship at the end of the arena. If you sat too close, you could not appreciate the lighting designer’s talent.
Ending the night with Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” gave Lynne and company a moment to showcase their individual talents and reminded us that Lynne can really shred on guitar. Unfortunately, the encore moment was the only time Lynne looked as though he found his comfort zone or was he just glad the world tour finally ended?
Opening the concert was Beatle George Harrison’s son, Dhani Harrison, whose 45 minute set of uninspiring trance music sucked the energy out of the room. Later, Harrison, singing a remarkable vocal match to his father, joined Lynne and company for a performance of the Traveling Wilburys’ hit “Handle with Care.”
Music lovers can rejoice that they perhaps attended Jeff Lynne’s final tour. But in this critic’s opinion, due to the virtually non-existent lighting on the performers, you cannot really say that you saw them.
Standin’ in the Rain
All Over the World
When I was a Boy
Handle with Care
Last Train to London
Can’t Get it Out of My Head
Shine a Little Love
Wild West Hero
Sweet Talkin’ Woman
Don’t Bring Me Down
Turn to Stone
Mr. Blue Sky
Roll Over Beethoven.